Music Lovers' Hugh Fountain shows off the Vivid Giya G3 speakers
Philip O'Hanlon is one smart cookie. Rather than stage the customary new product demo, where attendees must sit through one or more lengthy spiels before they get a chance to hear a single note, he went right for the gold. As someone who loves music, thrives on music, and takes joy in creating demo CDs for friends, the renowned proprietor of On a Higher Notedistributor of Luxman, Vivid, Brinkmann, Mola Mola, and TriPlanar delighted a full house at the first public demo of Luxman's forthcoming DSD-capable DA-06 DAC ($6000), staged at Music Lovers Audio in San Francisco, by spending close to three enthralling hours spinning music, performing comparisons, and letting the system do most of the talking.
Booth exhibits occupied much of the open space on the Doubletree's mezzanine level. First on my path was Sumiko's, where Jaime Moreno declared the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable ($399.99) "probably the best turntable available for under $400." The table, which can play either 33/45 or 33/78, comes complete with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, which costs $99 on its own. Best $498.99 turntable package for under $400?
According to Michael Goodman and Stacie Romashchenko, hands down the sweetest non-couple I encountered at AXPONA, CEntrance's business is upgrading computer audio sound. To that end, the team were showing CEntrance's premium DAC, headphone, speakers, and other components. Goodies include the CEntrance DACport, a portable 24/96 USB DAC and headphone amplifier ($299); the DACport LX ($249.95), a portable 24/96 USB DAC with line-level output; the DACmini; and DACmini PX ($999.95), an all-in-one 24/192 USB DAC, headphone amp and speaker amp. New to the list of products is the HiFi-M8 (699), a portable DAC/amp with internal battery that streams music from either your iPhone or laptop to headphones.
Music Direct did more than assist Steve Davis of AXPONA in organizing the Marketplace on the first floor and table displays on the mezzanine; the Chicago-based mail-order giant also had some delicious show specials available. Among them were the Marantz AV-7005 surround preamp, Pro-Ject Debut III turntable, and Marantz NA7004 network audio player/DAC. The company's Jon Schulman explained that while the Oppo BDP-105 wasn't on sale, it was too hot an item not to bring along.
An extremely healthy looking Dan Wright of Modwright Instruments, Inc. greeted me as I entered the room wired with Dynamic Design cabling. Treated to the CD version of Cantate Domino, the sound of a Scandinavian choir singing "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) in German was exceptionally smooth and lovely, if a bit gray around the edges. Then again, aren't many of us these days?
Damn. In the midst of my power coverage, my brief listen in the Perfect8/BAlabo room was so enjoyable that I resolved to return. But when I finished my final floor of the Hilton on Saturday, with just enough time for a return visit before I headed across the street to the airport, I found the door locked. Only later did I learn that the door had not been locked intentionally; if I had pounded hard enough, I could have gotten more of this equipment configuration’s wonderful sound.
KEF, the loudspeaker company that has made sure that every audiophile on Planet Earth knows about their Blade loudspeaker, held a premier of sorts: the first showing of the KEF R900 ($5000/pair). The results were mixed. I’m a little unclear about the amplificationI was told that it was a Chord CPM 3350 integratedbut whatever it was, paired with a Chord Chordette DAC, Parasound Halo CD-1, and Wireworld cabling, I was surprised to discover that the CD player produced much smoother sound than the PC running J River Media Player.
With AXPONA's shift to Chicago, the Capital Audiofest has become the only high quality audio show on the East Coast south of New York City. Taking place July 2628, CAF has relocated to the newly remodeled Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel, a superior and eminently accessible venue that has double the number of large exhibit rooms as last year's Crowne Plaza in Rockville, MD.
Located inside the Beltway, just three blocks from the Metro line, CAF will take place just 1 mile from the DC city limits. With 44 exhibit spaces booked as of July 17, many of which will display major brands, show organizer Gary Gill is optimistic that attendance will far exceed last year's under-1000 estimate.
For its 10th anniversary, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest has lined up some stellar entertainment. With more than a little help from Kimber Kable, Nordost Corporation and Reference Recordings, Marjorie Baumert began the celebration with a pre-show performance by vocalist Lillian Boutté. The only musician since Louis Armstrong to be decorated Ambassador of Music by the city of New Orleans, Boutté brought her 30 years of experience with jazz, gospel, and R&B to the first of three performances at the show. Backing her up were Eric Gunnison on piano, Mike Marlier on drums, Mark Simon on bass, and a singer whose name was not listed in the program.
LA Audio Electric Company's tube electronics produced warm, euphonic, and very smooth sound from ridiculously soppy pop music via Acoustic Zen loudspeakers. All products are hand-wired, and include proprietary output transformers. As best as I could make out, new at the show, although not in the photo, were the M-5W push-pull integrated amplifier ($1450) and A-50W integrated amplifier ($1700).